Why You Can’t Let Go Of Your Ex (and How To)

So you’re attached to someone. Maybe you two dated for awhile. Maybe you humped and kinda skipped over the whole relationship part. Doesn’t matter. What matters is the fact that it feels hard as balls for you to let go.

So hard, in fact, that you’re sitting on your ass right now bemoaning to yourself about how much love sucks while throwing half-eaten chocolates at the television screen (thanks, Clueless) when by complete happenstance divine synchronicity you somehow stumble upon this article and figure, “Hell, what do I have to lose?”

I’ll tell you what: Nothing, really, except the sense of misery and anxiety that’s currently imprisoning you.

Look, there are very good reasons – very logical reasons, in fact – that you haven’t been able to let go of this person you’re still holding on to. If you’re ready to listen, I’m ready to talk.

Here we go.

1 – You’re Actually Crazy (Sorry, But It’s True)

If you feel like you’re going crazy right now, it’s probably because you actually fucking are.

That’s right: You’re crazy. Loony. Slightly nuts, even.

I say this because denying reality is the definition of crazy, and right now you’re seeking a different reality than the one that actually exists – the one in which, you know, they don’t actually want to be with you – or at least, doesn’t want to be with you in the way you crave and deserve. The one in which they don’t call you. Have treated you poorly. Have made themselves clear. The one in which the ship has clearly already sailed.

You know what the truth is, but you’re seeking a different truth than the truth that actually exists. You’re seeking a different reality than the one that is happening. You don’t want to accept what’s true.

Look, it’s a rule of life: You can’t deny truth. You cannot deny what is real. The moment you deny what is real, you’re forced to separate from your own feelings and your own truth. And the moment you separate from your own feelings and your own truth, you’ll be living in a different world in which you can no longer trust yourself and in which you’ve become a complete whacko nutjob.

And really, who wants that?!

2 – You’re Terrified Of “Dying”

You’ve picked your partner from a space of “If I don’t have you I’m not complete,” so when you get rid of them, it’s only natural that at first you’ll feel like, “I don’t have you anymore; therefore I’m not complete.”

This feeling is intense and all-encompassing – so much so, in fact, that sometimes it can actually feel like you’re dying inside. The truth is, a part of you is dying: the part of you that feels like it needs someone else in order to be complete.

Halle-fucking-lujah!

Go ahead: Let it die. What have you got to lose, after all, other than the codependent part of yourself that’s led you to make self-deprecating decisions your entire life?

When you do this, it will almost certainly feel terrifying at first. It’ll feel scary and uncertain and unfamiliar. You’ll probably want to turn back immediately. Don’t! You’ve been through this cycle enough times – the cycle of being so terrified of the unfamiliar that you’d rather stay with someone who’s bad for you. But is diving into uncertainty and learning to love your (incredibly sexy ass) self actually worse than being with someone who makes you want to bawl on a daily basis?

Well, is it?!

I didn’t think so.

Because when you finally decide to rise above all the BS – when you don’t follow the temptation by reaching out to someone who’s treated you poorly – when you don’t do the thing – when you’re able to finally say, “I matter more than this fucking bullshit, I matter more than this person who treated me shitty, I matter more than these painful feelings that have driven me to make bad decisions in my past” – when you do this, it’s the birth of something so much greater. It is the birth of something so much more. It is the birth of the whole person – the one in which you no longer need someone else to choose you in order to feel complete.

Praise the sweet lord baby Jesus.

3 – You’re A Product Of Evolutionary Programming

Basically, we as humans are evolutionarily programmed to fit in and to adapt to the people around us in order to survive. Back in the day, if we didn’t find a way to fit in with our tribe, our family, or our society, we could literally die in the wild alone while chewing on bark and searching for squirrels to hunt. Bummer.

And so in order to avoid, you know, literally dying, we’ve learned to forsake our own selves and to adopt the thoughts, beliefs, and so on of the people around us at all costs. It’s as if we’re going around constantly saying things like, “I need you to love me in order to feel safe in this tribe. I need you to love me in order for this family to function. I need you to love me in order to stay in this relationship and pass our genes on to the next generation.”

The upside, of course, is that this programming has allowed humanity to survive up until now. The downside is – how do I put this? – that we’ve all become a bunch of goddamn lemmings.

Every time we say we don’t want a relationship when we really do, we forsake ourselves in order to be loved. Every time we pretend we aren’t as into someone as we actually are, we forsake ourselves in order to be loved. Every time we give up any part of ourselves in order to stay in a shitty ass relationship, we forsake ourselves in order to be loved. (Funny thing is, the love we think we’re receiving isn’t actually love at all.)

Hell, we’re so intent on not being abandoned or rejected that we actually believe it’s better to be in a shitty relationship than to be in no relationship at all. WTF?!

We mostly do all these things because we fear rejection and abandonment and not being enough – all things that, evolutionarily speaking, could have led to being rejected by our tribe.

But isn’t it crazy that in order to not be rejected or abandoned, we reject and abandon ourselves? Pay attention to that, because the very things we’re afraid of someone else doing to us, we do in order to get him or her.

The transition is in having the balls/ovaries to step up and say, “This is who I am. This is my voice. These are my opinions and my boundaries – you will not fuck with these.” Make no mistake about it: The moment you say “I don’t need to be anybody in order to fit in with you anymore,” the right people will line up around the block to be with you. The caliber of the folks who take interest in you will multiply exponentially. Finally, your milkshake will bring all the right boys (or girls) to the yard.

The One Question That Will Help You Make The Shift

The good news is, letting go of your ex becomes simple when you ask yourself one simple question:

“Is choosing them choosing me? Am I choosing myself right now? Is being in this relationship abandoning myself?”

Notice I said it’s “simple,” not “easy.” I said this for a reason. But if you’re courageous enough to let that old part of yourself die – to wade through the messy feelings of incompleteness and anxiety and uncertainty – what’s waiting for you on the other side will be so much greater.

If there is one thing you can learn from this, it’s this: Look for the ways you abandon yourself. Look for the ways you don’t choose yourself. That happens in relationship to your body, to money, to sex, alcohol, drugs – it happens whenever you sell out what your values are in order to be loved, in order to have a fleeting feeling that never lasts. The only thing that lasts is showing up for yourself and choosing yourself and staying present to yourself.

This is the work, and the work always starts with you. No one else can choose you until you’ve chosen you. No one else can love you until you love you. No one else can value you until you value you.

Choose you.

You’re worth it.